May 16, 2022

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Israel to take Pro-Ukraine Stance as Russian Invasion Escalates

3 min read

The policymakers in Israel have acknowledged that they would no longer be able to maintain their relatively ambiguous stance about the Russian-Ukraine conflict. This is primarily because the invasion is escalating. According to an unnamed Israeli official, the country would continue their current approach only if things calm down in the next couple of days and there are signs of dialogue. This would include no sanctions for Russia, declarative condemnation of the Russian attack and humanitarian support of Ukraine. But, in the event that the attack continues to escalate and the Russian President Vladimir Putin does not slow down, then Israel would also impose sanctions like the Western nations.

A senior Israeli source was also quoted by the media, who said that Israel had been given leeway by the Biden administration because they had recognized the need for Jerusalem to have a working relationship with Russia. However, the source stated that if the war is to continue, they would not be able to sit on the fence for long and would have to come up with a different policy, not just in terms of words, but in terms of actions as well. The official stated that they would have to pick a clear side.

Even though Jerusalem early on expressed its concern regarding the invasion of Ukraine by Russia, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has so far refrained from criticizing Putin or Moscow. This is because the premier is trying to maintain the green-light that Israel has gotten from the Kremlin. It permits the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) to operate against Iranian proxies from the Syrian skies under Russia’s control. On Wednesday, a UN General Assembly resolution had condemned Russia for its invasion and it had been co-sponsored by Israel. However, Israel had refused to do the same last week when it had come before the Security Council. 

This decision had drawn the ire of the Biden administration. A 100-ton shipment has been sent by Jerusalem to Ukrainians for humanitarian aid, but they denied the request of military equipment from Kyiv. Jewish Ukrainians who are fleeing the country due to war have also been welcomed in Israel, but it is not welcoming of non-Jewish refugees who have arrived at the Ben Gurion airport. Instead, they have demanded a fee of NIS 10,000 ($3,050) from these refugees in order to permit them to stay in the country temporarily. 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky had called on Bennett to mediate between Moscow and Kyiv. The premier had a couple of phone conversations with Putin and the Ukrainian leader since the beginning of the attack last Thursday. However, Russia has not shown any interest in allowing Israel to play the role of mediator and analysts do not believe that Jerusalem has enough leverage for keeping Putin on the table. If Israel decides to impose sanctions on Russia, then it would become even more unlikely for the country to be able to play the role of mediator. They would also need to figure out how to prevent Russian oligarchs from using Israel as a safe haven financially.

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